Peoria faces budget gap of millions of dollars, city leaders making tough decisions

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Tuesday, the Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich proposed budget changes to Peoria City Council. This comes after an extreme loss in revenue.

The 2020 budget was balanced just two months ago, but now it has been interrupted by the novel Coronavirus.

Urich said if the stay-at-home order ends by May 1, the general fund will still be projected 31.5 million dollars short. That money funds operating services like public safety. He said reductions in capital spending will offer little to no opportunity to aid the operating budget.

Currently, support for the Civic Center, Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and arts will be cut to service debt. There is still more support needed for public safety pensions.

Urich’s budget presentation shows that $31.5 million need to be cut or the need to borrow money short-term. The $31.5 million dollars is 46% of the city’s personnel and benefit costs of $67.8 million. The presentation shows one of the core challenges is that one-third of the year is over, so unspent personnel and benefit costs total $45.1 million. This gap is 70% of the unspent personnel and benefit costs.

Urich said the city cannot cut 7 out of every 10 employees to resolve this challenge. Adding, salary and headcount reductions will be necessary. He said however staff needs guidance from the city council on the amount of cuts desired.

Some council members urged restraint when making reduction decisions.

We’ll need to make sure that were using a lading knife, not a butcher knife, that we’re very judicious when we move forward.

Timothy Riggenbach, Peoria City Council

Other council members suggest making decisions that’ll sustain the city for years to come, aiding in long-term recovery.

“Band aids hold on but they eventually come off under water and while we had a balanced budget for 2021 you also presented us the reality that we were going to be under water in a couple of years because we weren’t structurally set up to maintain that balance.

Sid Ruckriegel, Peoria City Council

Urich said this challenge is ambiguous adding that it is unclear if and when we will receive state and federal assistance. However, he said decisions need to be made soon, because the longer they wait the larger the impact it has on fiscal year 2021. He also mentions that if the stay-at-home order is extended Peoria will be worse off financially.

No decisions were made on Tuesday. The council did vote unanimously to receive Urich’s budget presentation. Council members hope to meet each week to further this discussion.

Also, two months after WMBD Investigators uncovered lift-assist calls recurrent costs to taxpayers, leaders made a citywide change.

Tuesday, council also decided some senior living homes will be billed for the lift-assist service. This service is provided when home call for firefighters or paramedics to lift a fallen resident off of the ground or help physically move them. Assisted living, Life Care and Nursing Facilities will now be charged $800 per call.

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis recommended the fee be increased in the future to reflect the actual cost of each lift assist, which is $1250 dollars.

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